Nevada History by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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Sun Valley

Lemmon, Antelope and Hungry
April , 2007
By John Evanoff

Several farmers came to the area in the early 1900’s north of Reno and Sparks to raise hogs, goats, chicken and sheep for the growing population of the Truckee Meadows. Although the citizens of the Rail City (Sparks) and the little town next to the Truckee River (Reno) were happy for the meat, cheese and eggs sold by these small but energetic entrepreneurs, they had little to do with them. Many generations later, we are left with pavement, mobile homes, houses, apartments and businesses without any concern for what was once in the northern valleys and how history has forgotten these few but important pieces of property.

Sun Valley was owned by just a couple families who did fairly well on their farms. Many times a week they would come to market along commercial row, which was the main street back then and sell their meats and produce to the restaurants and markets. The trail into the Sun Valley area came up from Wedekind Road, an old flume path before it became a dirt road and then paved road years later. Wedekind was actually the name of a mining czar in the region who owned most of a sizable mining venture on the west side of Red Peak (the hill above Truckee Meadows Community College) and extending south to what is now North McCarran Blvd. There were several small one lane log bridges that crossed the flume for awhile. The flume eventually became a large irrigation ditch to feed farms and ranches in the north Sparks and Spanish Springs areas. A couple small narrow gauge railroad lines traversed this area as well, connecting with the Northern Pacific tracks (now the Western Pacific) that meandered through the northern valleys to the main Central Pacific roundhouse at the end of Valley Road. You have to imagine no pavement anywhere and very few buildings in the area except for the roundhouse and some packing houses nearby.

This was the way things stayed for years until Reno got a spurt from the building of military installations during World War II in North Reno around Valley Road and now McCarran, Stead AFB and Hurlong Army Munitions Depot 45 miles north of Reno. Lemmon Valley (once the town of Peavine) was the housing overflow of maintenance workers at Stead AFB. Traffic increased and pavement was laid along Military Road to old highway 395 (North Virginia Street).

The pig, goat, sheep and chicken farmers of the north valleys were doing really well, but then the war ended and the men and the families of the armed forces housed in the region remained and started to look for homes and civilian jobs to start a new life in the Truckee Meadows. Within ten years, from 1946 to 1956, the City of Reno doubled in size and housing development outpaced almost all industries. Harold’s Club, Harrah’s, the Mapes Hotel, the Palace Club, the Silver Club, the Nevada Club, the New China Club, the CalNeva and the Nugget in Sparks all sprang up at once and the town became an instant hit with celebrities and (six week) divorces.

When I was growing up, my father and I would regularly go to Sun Valley to hunt Sage Hen, Chucker, Quail and Cottontail. The creek ran most of the year through what is now Wildcreek Golf Course and Red Peak to the west of the creek was by far our first choice for a quick bag of chucker or sage grouse followed by a bag of quail and cottontail near the marshy outcrop below. The creek, dry in the summer, was fed by artesian wells dotting the eastern side of Red Peak. Two small farms lay at the bottom of the small springs spaced about a mile apart and they were the only presence of civilization until the land was sold to speculators. Before long, Sun Valley became extremely busy with the placement of a new type of house called the mobile home. These trailers were much more than for just travel and were built to move into place over blocks and a quick setup of water, electricity and septic tanks. Washoe County allowed the sales of partials of acres and a major land boom began to take shape. The more well to do citizens of the region bought five, ten and twenty acre plots for ridiculously low prices and split them up into quarter and third acre parcels to either rent or sell to mobile home owners. Within ten years, Sun Valley was the largest congregation of mobile homes in the country.

Before long, speculators were looking even further north into Golden Valley, lemmon Valley, Panther Valley, Hungry Valley and Antelope Valley, but Washoe County decided to make the property rules more stringent because of the way the homes were built and how the septic systems played a part in the ground water and eventually the Truckee River water management system. Sun Valley still remains today as one of the largest mobile home areas in the country, but stick homes have begun to rise around the hills and north into Spanish Springs. Panther Valley has become more commercialized because of it’s proximity to the railroad spur and lemmon Valley has become more rural in nature. Hungry and Antelope Valley have been spared the land grab for now mostly because of the scarcity of water. If water sources are found and appropriated in the next couple years, those two valleys along with Warm Springs and Spanish Springs will become rural towns.

For now, take a ride on the old Clear Acre Road (Sun Valley Blvd) or El Rancho Drive from Wedekind Road north into Sun Valley. If you drive up Dandini Blvd. towards Truckee Meadows Community College, you will see some lava outcroppings on both sides of the hill. Go back in time with me and try to visualize a dozen or more sage grouse and more chucker than you can count at each spot with not another living being for miles around. Then, take Sun Valley Blvd., north to Seventh Avenue and take a left to visit Golden Valley, the top half of Panther Valley, lemmon Valley, Hungry Valley and eventually Antelope Valley. Fifty-five years ago, the total population of this area was around one hundred and fifty, with most of them residing in lemmon Valley.

Next month, we venture southeast across the state to an old spring getaway of mine which still remains a wondrous place to behold. The name brings make memories of one of my first readings from the works of Homer’s the Iliad and the Odyssey, Troy. Troy Peak was John Muir’s favorite Nevada hike. The writer, naturalist and conservationist more than once exclaimed of its outstanding views and magnificent geology in his writings. I can tell you from my many hikes in the Grant and Quinn Canyon Wilderness, he was correct in his adoration and you will too if you take the time to take the hike.


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